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MILAN (Reuters) – AC Milan trimmed its annual loss last year thanks to rising commercial revenue and continued cost discipline, the Italian soccer champions said on Wednesday, as it eyes the renewal of a long-standing sponsorship deal with airline Emirates.

Recently bought by investment firm RedBird Capital Partners in a 1.2 billion euro ($1.2 billion) deal, AC Milan slashed its net loss by more than 30% to 66 million euros in the 12 months through June.

Total revenue rose by 14% to 298 million euros, driven by an increase in match day turnover and commercial and sponsorship deals.

“We are in a period of rapid commercial growth”, CEO Ivan Gazidis said on an online briefing. “We have a long relationship with Emirates … and I hope we will be in a position to make an announcement soon.”

The United Arab Emirates’ flag carrier’s logo has been emblazoned on the jerseys worn by Rossoneri players since 2010.

President Paolo Scaroni told reporters he was confident of further reducing the club’s losses to potentially hit breakeven in the upcoming financial year. He said the expertise of RedBird – owner of the New York Yankees – in sport and media would help expand partnerships overseas.

Once a dominant force in European soccer with seven European Champion titles, AC Milan returned to glory in May, winning the Italian Serie A title for the first time in 11 years.

“We need to feed our fans worldwide with a good performance in the Champions League, otherwise we’ll have only 90-year-old supporters”, Scaroni said during the club’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday.

Like other top Italian clubs, AC Milan is struggling to remain competitive with European rivals. Its TV and commercial revenues lag behind those of England’s Premier league clubs, Europe’s richest national league.

One of the 12 clubs which initially joined a failed attempt to create a European breakaway league, AC Milan reiterated that the club had abandoned the project.

“But problems which triggered the attempt to create a Super League are still there … I wish those problems will not be ignored”, Scaroni said.

($1 = 0.9988 euros)

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Editing by Alvise Armellini and David Holmes)

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